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NCLB Outrages

Testing from cradle to grave

Ohanian Comment: Kudos to John Young, who not only gets it but also tells it with wit. He presents the essence of the problem--from the vulnerabilities and very real needs of pre-schoolers to the overreaching ambition of Standardistos to corporate cronyism and greed. If the NEA had guts, not to mention insight, they'd send him an award of merit.

by John Young

Back to school we go, with a whole new set of âaccountabilityâ measures: for preschoolers?

You may rub your eyes.

They arenât mandatory, but give policymakers time. We see that those who talk the talk of âless governmentâ and âlocal control of schoolsâ inevitably walk the walk of top-down control and corporate-style directives from afar.

What is with these people? Why do they trust government so? Isnât that original sin if youâre a conservative?

Over the last six years, big-government conservatism has taken full flower â whether in nation-building, eavesdropping, morality policing or finding endless ways for well-respected anti-government types to trust in top-down government control.

The most egregious example is whatâs happened to public schools. Somehow we have decided to hand more and more power to far-off educrats and executive-branch power mavens. In the process weâve taken something â teaching â that ought to be personalized and creative and made it into something mass-produced, programmed and copyrighted.

What were we saying about preschoolers?

Our state has become the first to certify preschools, day-care centers and Head Start based on how they prepare children for kindergarten. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. If Head Start isnât helping prepare students for school, whatâs it doing?

The problem is with that corporate, top-down mentality so evident these days. Someone, generally a political ally of the ruling clique, comes up with a set of âaccountability measures,â a curriculum, a test, and sells its infallibility to its friends in high places.

In Texas, the new School Readiness Certification System has been implemented, with about 450 prekindergarten classrooms recently getting the seal of approval.

Sounds peachy, but

These may be great operations, indeed, the very best. But many observers worry about putting too much stock in âtestableâ criteria and that putting academic pursuits above all will warp the preschool experience.

The Bush administration has pushed an initiative to remake Head Start into a reading readiness program â as if the other dimensions of acclimating to group dynamics, washing oneâs hands, learning to share the pencils and being 4 years old arenât enough. Many early educators have pushed back.

Pursuant to their concerns, bills reauthorizing Head Start in Congress eliminate toddler testing. Ah, fudge, say those who would love to sell their tests to every preschool in America.

In Texas, the high priestess of pre-K accountability is, not surprisingly, a friend of the Bushes.

Susan Landry, director of the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development, created the state certification system using $4 million in state dollars. She and Laura Bush have worked on literacy projects together.

Landryâs system tracks children from preschool to kindergarten, then uses kindergartnersâ reading scores and âsocial skillsâ tests to determine whether they were served well. Wait. Tests in kindergarten?

Landry told the Dallas Morning News that students should be able to enter kindergarten knowing most of the alphabet and able âto read basic words, such as âcat.â â

That is highly debatable. Certainly a preschooler should be ready to begin digesting such matter or at least be able to comport himself in a classroom and in a group.

Reading at 4? Some can do it and thrive. For some, they just need to be children.

As said, what Texas has implemented is a voluntary matter, and those classes that have been certified might merit high marks. One shudders, however, at mandating something like this and turning preschools into âdrill-and-killâ academies.

State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, told the Morning News that the fact that the pre-K certification program has no âforce of lawâ limits its effectiveness in gauging preschools.

Thatâs just what we need, more âforce of lawâ bearing down on child-care employees and their tiny charges â all in the name of big-government conservatism.

— John Young
Waco Tribune-Herald


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